Bristol City 3
Edwards 35, 72
A MUCH-CHANGED United slipped to defeat against a very youthful Bristol City in the final home outing of a busy pre-season for the Gulls.
A delightful free-kick from Jake Andrews gave City and early lead and Opi Edwards doubled the advantage at half-time. Substitute Brett Williams gave United hope immediately after the restart but that was extinguished by a second from Edwards.
The visitors started brightly in midfield and a super long-range drive had Shaun MacDonald diving full length to his left for a super parry wide. City continued to work neat triangles in the attacking third and an early test for the defensive duo of Josh Gowling and Kyle Cameron.
One slippery move on nine minutes forced Cameron into a trip on the edge of the area and the punishment was ruthless. Andrews took a couple of small steps before curling a wonderful free-kick over the wall and in off the underside of the bar for a picture-book goal.
United were struggling to find any attacking rhythm against the high-pressing game from City. The first genuine shot on goal fell to Ruairi Keating on 25 minutes, nudging past full-back George Nurse before a rising angled drive sailed comfortably over the bar.
Moments later, Keating was again involved, running on to a flick from Jon-Paul Pittman and cushioning a pass to trialist James Roberts, who shaved the near-post side-netting with a half-volley from just inside the right edge of the area.
The Gulls were 2-0 down on 35 minutes and a poor goal defensively, as Freddie Hinds skipped through the middle with far too much space. His flick over the sprawling MacDonald bounced back off the near-post and a slow reaction from United allowed Edwards time to poke into an empty net.
The half-time whistle was a welcome relief from a turgid first 45 minutes and boss Gary Owers reacted by making a number of substitutions, which immediately made a difference.
The second period was just a minute old when Williams found space in the right channel and expertly guided the ball beyond goalkeeper Alhaji Sesay for a tremendous finish to halve the deficit.
MacDonald maintained the momentum with a fine save at the other end and Williams very nearly poached a leveller when he pestered Aaron Parsons into a mistake, but the defender recovered to hook clear after Sesay had slowed the United progress.
The game returned to a somewhat tepid affair through the middle of the second period, briefly brightened by a surge from Jamie Reid and he was unlucky when a last-ditch challenge from Tom Harrison prevented a shot on goal.
United’s race was run on 72 minutes, when Edwards found space in the right channel and executed a clever chip over the body of an advancing MacDonald to restore the two-goal advantage.
A swift move involving Reid and youngster Olaf Koszela created room for Williams to have a stab at goal seven minutes from time, but the effort was blocked and subsequent corner easily cleared.
Williams then steered a half-volley wide following good work from Samir Nabi and that was the final act of the evening. A trip to Dorchester on Saturday completes pre-season then the real fun begins with an away game at Chelmsford on the opening day.
United: 1 Shaun MacDonald (13 George Burton 79); 6 Josh Gowling (4 George Essuman H-T), 7 Ruairi Keating (15 Jean-Yves Koue Niate H-T), 8 Asa Hall, 10 Jason Banton (3 Liam Davis H-T), 11 Bobson Bawling (2 Ben Wynter 62), 14 Samir Nabi, 16 Ryan Dickson, 17 Kyle Cameron (12 Olaf Koszela 73), 18 Jon-Paul Pittman (9 Brett Williams H-T), 20 James Roberts (19 Jamie Reid H-T).
Bristol City Squad: 1 Alhaji Sesay, 3 George Nurse, 4 Joe Morrell, 5 Harvey Smith, 6 Aaron Parsons, 7 Opi Edwards, 8 Tom Richards, 9 Freddie Hinds, 11 Jake Andrews, 12 Rory Holden, 15 Aden Baldwin. Substitutes: 2 Marcus Day, 13 James Carey (GK), 14 Ricardo Rees, 16 Jayden Ali, 17 James Morton, 18 Tom Harrison, 19 Chris Turner-Williams, 20 Saikou Janneh.
Referee: Adam Bromley